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Judge Temporarily Blocks Iowa’s New Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Law
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Rita Bettis, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. Photo courtesy of NPR.

Summary: Iowa’s latest abortion law has been temporarily suspended as the court weighs in on a lawsuit challenging its legality. 

An Iowa judge ruled that the state’s new fetal heartbeat abortion law will be temporarily suspended as the court hears arguments against its constitutionality.


Iowa recently passed a law that abortions could not happen after six weeks, when a fetus develops a heartbeat. Opponents said most women do not even know they are pregnant by this time and that this was a move to end abortions in the state.

The new law was supposed to take effect July 1, according to The Des Moines Register, but a lawsuit that was filed challenges the law’s legality. Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert agreed to a temporary injunction of the law, and his decision was not contested by state lawyers.

On May 4, Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, signed the law into action, making Iowa the state with the strictest abortion regulations in the US. In response to the legislation’s passing, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic sued, stating that the law violated due-process rights for women as well as their right to liberty, safety, and happiness that was guaranteed to them.

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The controversial heartbeat law was criticized for blocking abortions before most women knew they were pregnant, and opponents said that it violates the state Constitution and a federal ruling, which protects abortion according to the 1973 case Roe vs. Wade.

“The U.S. Supreme Court found women have a constitutionally protected right to abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. That decision protects women’s right to an abortion before the fetus would be viable outside the womb — around 23 or 24 weeks and well after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Regulations before that point must not create an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion, courts have decided,” the Des Moines Register said.

Friday’s move halts enforcement of the law but does not block it.

The plaintiffs are being represented by the Iowa American Civil Liberties Union and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Thomas More Society is representing the defendants, the state of Iowa.

Planned Parenthood said that the new law violates Iowa’s Constitution which also protects abortion rights. The Des Moines Register said that the plaintiffs chose to sue under state constitutional violations to avoid having the case go to the Supreme Court, where the conservative majority may rule against Roe v. Wade.

“Not only is this law blatantly unconstitutional — it’s extremely harmful to women,” Planned Parenthood said, according to NPR.

Updated June 6, 2018 at 11:30am with a statement from the Thomas More Society:

The Thomas More Society told JD Journal that “the defendants intend to mount a full and robust defense of the law at a trial.”

“It is anticipated that Planned Parenthood will be unable to prevail and achieve a successful result in its challenge to the new law, which is meritless, nor to prove that irreparable harm would result if the statute were enforced,” Thomas More Society attorney Martin Cannon told JD Journal in a statement. “The real and only irreparable harm that can be shown in this case is the harm done to babies with beating hearts. That is what this life-affirming law is designed to prevent.”

What do you think of Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law? Let us know in the comments below.



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